Mystical Levels

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Coincidental Level

Now let’s get to the final form of static quality I am going to present in this work: mystical quality. I regret I had to name it such! The name is obviously the most fitting, but I don’t want to sound more ”tin foil hat” than I already do. Mystical quality emerges from normative quality and consists of four levels which are reciprocal with the normative levels. The first level of mystical quality has to connect to unity intuition because its reciprocal is the analogy level, which also connects to unity intuition. Apart from that I know of no guidelines that could aid in figuring out what the level is. It’s perfectly valid to ask how do I manage to come up with a metaphysical category that has, to my knowledge, not been described before. But I don’t have a conclusive answer. All I know is that according to the Analytic Metaphysics of Quality, the first level of mystical quality has to emerge from the analogy level and connect to unity intuition.

What could this mean? The level somehow has to be built on the notion of analogy so that one could use the analogy level as an environment for the agents on that level. But it also has to be possible to differentiate the patterns of that level from normative analogies. I believe a suitable concept for defining such a level is that of ”synchronicity”. Synchronicity means the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear to be causally unrelated. They are ecspecially interesting when they seem meaningful and improbable. As synchronicities are not united by any known form causality, they are only united by time and meaning. The cause of synchronistic events may be thought of as Dynamic Quality. The events themselves, however, are static patterns, as synchronicity can be defined, and synchronistic events may consequently be identified as such, when they occur.

Synchronicities differ from analogies in the sense that analogies are formalisms with no spatiotemporal location. Analogies do not exist in any location or for any duration that would differ from the location and duration of the act of thinking about the analogy. By this I mean that if you are thinking of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and the halting problem, and find an analogy between the two, the existence of the analogy in your conscious normative cognition is bound only to you thinking about the analogy – despite the fact that there is a highly logical argument for the existence of this analogy.

Synchronicities are not mere acts of thought – they are interpretations of events that can be perceived by the senses. These events do not necessarily occur normatively during the time they are being perceived. They may also manifest as objective quality, which means they exist in a rational interpretation of the tangible world, or as subjective quality, which means they appear in an irrational tangible world.

One synchronicity occurred to me this spring. On 10.4.2012 Finland’s national public-broadcasting company aired an interview of my brother Olli Virtaperko, who is a composer. I was unaware of the interview, and just a few days later I got an idea for a comic strip in which the Finnish songwriter Zachris Topelius is being interviewed. When I eventually saw the interview, it was the first time I saw Olli being interviewed as a guest in a TV program. The comic strip is also the first one I ever made that features an songwriter being interviewed. The significance of this coincidence is open for interpretation – however, it meets the criteria for synchronicity.

As the fairly subtle notion of synchronicity has the advantage of being known for at least almost a century and to have no notable competing or conflicting interpretations, which would require further explanation, it seems this topic can be covered by just a few paragraphs. This is what I would prefer all philosophy to be like: work with clear, unobfuscated concepts, even if they referred to rather subtle things. The Jungian notion of ”synchronicity” is, however, a bit alien to the majority of people. Therefore I will call these things simply coincidences. The first level of mystical quality is the concidential level.

Cultural Level

Also known as HARMONY

The next level of mystic quality has to emerge from the coincidental level and connect to awareness intuition so that it can be the reciprocal of the metatheory level. And I get the feeling I’m about to discover the waveform of language. Wait, let’s not use this ”tin foil hat” terminology.

I call the second level of mystic quality the cultural level. It’s reciprocal is the normative metatheory level. Culture is the domain of theories that cannot be justified by rationality alone. And don’t go on to associate only all kinds of hippie new age crap to this level, for the scientific method itself is a cultural construct.

From an objective point of view the scientific method is mostly taken for granted. It can be used to construct the notion of objectivity. The products of the scientific method can be used to assess the properties of the scientific method, such as whether it produces desirable results. But they cannot be used to assess whether that method itself is true or false. If the method were deemed false its products would become invalid. Although metaphoric interpretation of objective information may make some cultures seem dubious and bolster the credibility of others, the assumption, that such justification is necessary for culture, is a cultural assumption in and of itself. Therefore, stating that culture is based on objective science is a circular argument. We should be content stating that cultures should not contradict objective science when it is inappropriate to do so.

Culture is not necessarily reducible to normativity, either, because cultures may be required to correspond with experience instead of only being internally consistent. Admittedly, normative thinking can be used to, for example, deem a culture inconsistent. An inconsistent culture is usually accused of featuring double standards. This entails that it is relevant for a culture to have normative quality. However, a culture is never really used unless it also has subjective quality for the user.

To sum it up, culture is beyond any verification or justification method that exists as exclusively subjective, exclusively objective or exclusively normative quality. In addition, because cultures are used to construct the notions of truth and existence, even a culture can turn out irrelevant for determining whether another culture is true. To illustrate this I will use the philosophies of materialism and idealism as example cultures. By the way, the word ”philosophy” can surprisingly often be substituted with ”culture”. I ask whether a physicalist could formulate a physicalistic justification for converting to idealism. In other words, can he use physicalism to argue, that idealism is true or false?

One branch of physicalism is called emergent materialism. It states that everything is physical, but in certain configurations physical entities have emergent properties. For example, color is an emergent property of matter. Elementary particles absorb or emit certain wavelengths of light when combined as molecules, but they don’t do so separately. Therefore, although the elementary building blocks of matter are inherently colorless they can be configured in such a way that the property of color emerges. In a similar vein, consciousness could be seen as an emergent property of matter although it’s vastly more complex than color.

But the idealist asserts that the domain of consciousness is the fundamental ontological category and there are no elementary particles beyond it. According to him the mind does not arise from elementary particles, but elementary particles arise from the mind. This is inconsistent with emergent physicalism. Emergent physicalism states exactly the opposite: that elementary particles do not arise from the mind, but the mind arises from elementary particles.

A physicalist might believe that mind as the fundamental ontological category can be expressed within physicalism, if it’s portrayed as certain configuration of neurons in the brain. But such portrayals are based on empirical observations which both materialists and idealists can make and bestow meaning on. If an idealist were put into a sophisticated brain scanner which examines him and outputs the result that he’s an idealist, he’d be fine with it. But if the machine were to output that he’s not an idealist, he’d find the result devoid of meaning and insist that the machine be repaired. The output of a sophisticated brain scanner does not determine whether a person is an idealist. That output is something completely different than idealism. Mind as the fundamental ontological category does not exist in the ontology of the physicalist, so brain scanners are unable to help him refer to it. In addition, he cannot unambiguously conceptualize even the option of converting to idealism because for him, “idealism” would mean something else than it means for an idealist. For him, “idealism” is a dialectic notion according to which certain configurations of neurons in the brain make a person feel a certain way, but he himself does not feel that way. For an idealist, “idealism” refers to his own way of thinking which he directly experiences.

In order to determine whether a culture is true we would need to place it to a context in which it can be verified or refuted. But that would only beg the question, for then we could ask is that context true. Consequently, it may be irrelevant to use a culture as justification of another culture.

Culture emerges from coincidences by virtue of cultures being intended for handling reality but being beyond conventional scientific means of justification. Since they have no scientific justification they are causally unrelated to the reality they are supposed to handle. At least the causality cannot be observed, so even if there is any, attaining knowledge of it is apparently not feasible for humans. If a culture seems to handle reality in any way, that is a coincidence in and of itself. It is one special case of coincidence. And if a cause for that coincidence were found, it would no longer be a coincidence.

Freedom Level

Also known as FREE

The third level of mystic quality connects to significance intuition. It is the reciprocal of the normative semantic level and I call it the freedom level. Freedom patterns seem to be what Buddhists are trying to cultivate by means of meditation. They are not well-integrated to Western thought but the development of freedom patterns is a central theme of the Diamond Sutra. I cite its final chapters as translated by Alex Johnson.

Chapter 30.

The lord Buddha resumed:

“Subhuti, if any good person, either man or woman, were to take 3,000 galaxies and grind them into microscopic powder and blow it into space, what do you think, would this powder have any individual existence?”

“Subhuti replied, “Yes, lord, as a microscopic powder blown into space, it might be said to have a relative existence, but as you use words, it has no existence. The words are used only as a figure of speech. Otherwise the words would imply a belief in the existence of matter as an independent and self-existent thing, which it is not.”

“Furthermore, when the Most Honored One refers to the ’3,000 galaxies,’ he could only do so as a figure of speech. Why? Because if the 3,000 galaxies really existed, their only reality would consist in their cosmic unity. Whether as microscopic powder or as galaxies, what does it matter? Only in the sense of the cosmic unity of ultimate being can the Buddha rightfully refer to it.”

The lord Buddha was very pleased with this reply and said:

“Subhuti, although ordinary people have always grasped after an arbitrary conception of matter and galaxies, the concept has no true basis; it is an illusion of the mortal mind. Even when it is referred to as ‘cosmic unity’ it is unthinkable and unknowable.”

The unknowability of matter is perhaps not so surprising, given that although the scientific notion of matter is internally rational, it can be argued to rely on cultural assumptions, that have no justification but are used only by virtue of them coincidentally helping us to cope with reality. It couldn’t possibly be “true” that matter exists, unless we are content being unable to obtain irrefutable justification for that notion. We are not obliged to use axioms that either explicitly assume matter or implicate its existence as a theorem. But we may use such axioms, because it leads to a way of thinking that coincidentally improves our grip of reality.

What Buddha is trying to teach here is that we are free to assume matter. Buddha is trying to teach the spirit of extreme fallibilism: any theory we use may need a revision. We cannot know any theory to positively never need revision. Hence, if we found a culture that does not assume the existence of matter but coincidentally happens to help us handle reality, it would not be absolutely necessary to add the concept of matter to that culture or to reject the culture by virtue of it not including matter. The Diamond Sutra goes on:

Chapter 31.

The lord Buddha continued:

“If any person were to say that the Buddha, in his teachings, has constantly referred to himself, to other selves, to living beings, or to a universal self, what do you think, would that person have understood my meaning?”

Subhuti replied, “No, blessed lord. That person would not have understood the meaning of your teachings. For when you refer to those things, you are not referring to their actual existence, you only use the words as figures of speech, as symbols. Only in that sense can words be used, for conceptions, ideas, limited truths, and spiritual truths have no more reality than have matter or phenomena.”

Then the lord Buddha made his meaning even more emphatic by saying:

“Subhuti, when people begin their practice of seeking to attaining total Enlightenment, they ought to see, to perceive, to know, to understand, and to realize that all things and all spiritual truths are no-things, and, therefore, they ought not to conceive within their minds any arbitrary conceptions whatsoever.”

By opposing arbitrary conceptions Buddha is opposing essentialism: the doctrine that reality would necessarily have certain attributes. Buddha is teaching us to keep open the option to clear our minds of pre-existing conceptions. This is not what Western philosophers tend to do. Rescher’s Rationality sounds more like failed propaganda. I say ”failed” because Rescher even devalues the thing, ”rationality”, that he is offering, as a sad predicament.

Chapter 32.

Buddha continued:

“Subhuti, if anyone gave to the Buddha an immeasurable quantity of the seven treasures sufficient to fill the whole universe; and if another person, whether a man or woman, in seeking to attain complete Enlightenment were to earnestly and faithfully observe and study even a single section of this Sutra and explain it to others, the accumulated blessing and merit of that latter person would be far greater.”

“Subhuti, how can one explain this Sutra to others without holding in mind any arbitrary conception of forms or phenomena or spiritual truths? It can only be done, Subhuti, by keeping the mind in perfect tranquility and free from any attachment to appearances.”

“So I say to you – This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:”

“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream; Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.”

“So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”

Thus spoke Buddha.

The Diamond Sutra is an elaborate freedom pattern that can be understood with significance intuition. It says we are not obliged to adhere to cultural conventions as if they represented eternal truths about the world. Such conventions ultimately cannot be proven within any other context than the context of culture – which, as we earlier found out, cannot be proven to provide true or false contexts. These conventions can be available for us instead of us being available for living up to the perceived expectations of cultures.

Freedom patterns emerge from cultural patterns, because in the absence of culture the notion of cultural freedom Buddha teaches in the Diamond Sutra would be meaningless. Only after culture has already taken place in our minds do we face the choice of whether we want to subscribe to some particular brand of essentialism, such as materialism or idealism, or to be free.

The coincidentality of freedom patterns lies in the observation that freedom from essentialism entails a higher quality of life by not necessitating, for example, opposition to religion when religious thought is only a language someone is using to describe his reality and not an instrument of oppression. I have found myself able to have a reasonable conversation about spiritual matters with Jehovah’s witnesses, as I hold no prejudice against them. The conversation was not a search of justification for religious thought but a pleasant discovery of agreement. Even though I am not a Jehovah’s witness, they seemed happy about my spirituality! In a way, what I experienced was a moment with people who, for all intents and purposes, qualified as my friends during the conversation. The atheist skeptic might find me to have refrained from condemning a form of religious superstition I should have condemned, but I think the opposite. Whatever could conceivably be bad about being a Jehovah’s witness was probably called into question by me getting along with them so well despite not being a Jehovah’s witness. I did not have to introduce any contradiction myself. I believe if they themselves had some problems or doubts about being Jehovah’s witnesses they learnt more from me when I did not take the role of the antagonist. If they had no problems being Jehovah’s witnesses I don’t suppose I introduced any new ones. And I don’t believe I should have tried to introduce problems simply because Jehovah’s witnesses are “wrong” about things due to their religious conviction. They probably have some good reason to be Jehovah’s witnesses and it’s not up to me to directly interfere too much with the affairs of people I don’t know. When I am offering you freedom I am, among other things, offering you the option to refrain from fighting people when there is nothing to be won. Maybe you already have that ability but I can confide to you I didn’t use to be like that. And in addition to not fighting others I am offering the option of not fighting yourselves – not forcing yourselves to perceive reality according to an essentialist doctrine simply out of habit even if the doctrine were to provide you no useful insight, happiness or other good kind of result.

I know of no causal relationship that would adequately explain why freedom from essentialist culture would improve one’s quality of life. Flexibility of one’s cultural landscape and an improved quality of life seem like a coincidence. If one were to point out that years of meditation, which is a practice developed largely for the cultivation of freedom patterns, cause measurable structural changes in the brain, that would still not explain how and why the personal experience of cultural fluidity causes increased happiness. The phenomenological reality of a person, who is free from essentialism, does not tend to directly grasp the measurable changes in that person’s brain let alone intuitively understand the relationship between those changes and the increased happiness. Therefore, from the most immediate viewpoint of the human who experiences freedom from essentialism, the resulting happiness would seem to have no causal relationship to empirical measurements of his brain.

Surely this makes freedom seem at least as good as any form of essentialism. It is up to the human to choose, or attempt to choose, between freedom and subordination to an essentialist doctrine. Humans have a tendency to end up in subordination, of which the Buddhists have at least attempted to free us. The Buddhist goal may be seen as optimistic: perhaps not everyone is able to be free and perhaps some even are happier in subordination. But as freedom tends to permit more variety it is reasonable to assume that an increase of freedom results in an increase in Quality. If the network of human minds were metaphorically thought of as a brain, an increase in cultural freedom would resemble an increase in neuroflexibility, which has been linked to improved learning. Furthermore, the Buddhists are reasonable in offering freedom to everyone because if some reject it, their subordination to essentialism can be seen as voluntary instead of a form of enslavement by a secret enlightened society. Therefore they will have no reason to hold a grudge.

Aesthetic Level

Also known as ESTHETIC

Even if people realize they are free not to subscribe to any particular dialectic truth, they would end up thinking in terms of some dialectic systems more often than other systems. Therefore, it could be argued that their favorite systems have more control of them than other systems. People are not free in the sense they would let all systems have an equal amount of control of their lives. And how could that even be possible, as there is an infinite amount of possible systems? To my knowledge, Buddhism doesn’t advocate that people distribute equally the control dialectic systems have on them – only that they distribute this control appropriately. Whenever mystical patterns are involved, such choices are invariably based on aesthetic reasons as there’s no other criterion left after essentialism has been abandoned.

The final level in the Analytic Metaphysics of Quality, as I am going to present it, is the aesthetic level. It connects to harmony intuition and its reciprocal is the normative syntax level. Aesthetics emerges from freedom because in the absence of essentialist doctrines there are only aesthetic considerations to be taken into account. The aesthetic level emerges from the freedom level as freedom of freedom. Cultural freedom allows us not to adhere to cultures because of delusions about their truthfulness, but aesthetic sensibility allows us to adhere to cultures by virtue of their beauty. Aesthetic patterns coincide with experiences of beauty and harmony, and some rules of aesthetics can be derived from these patterns even though those rules are often best broken and therefore do not comprise a coherent system. Aesthetic passions are the ultimate form of mystical quality as they are what people choose to adhere to and stick to despite the fact that Buddhist enlightenment has freed them from an essentialistic obligation to do so.

The spirit of the aesthetic level is that not only are we free, but we are also free of the obligation of being free. We can choose to submit to a dialectic system for no objective reason whatsoever. For example, the beginning point of the Common Era, that is, the year zero, could be interpreted as an example of an aesthetic pattern. In order to keep track of time we have to select some year as the year zero. The year we selected is a year Jesus has, at least sometimes, been thought to born. But Jesus did not live like he did in order to set a beginning point for measuring the passage of time.

We could say that selecting the birth year of Jesus as the year zero was a form of Christian cultural imperialism – intended to make people convert to Christianity. That is possible, but on the other hand no unified system of timekeeping can be unless some year is selected as year zero. Therefore, even in the absence of cultural imperialist interests it would be reasonable to select the year zero according to an event that was deemed important and beneficial enough so that the timekeeping system would seem more meaningful for people. Unless the general advancement of timekeeping is considered cultural imperialism, which it may but I won’t do so, it follows that there wasn’t necessarily other grounds to select the birth year of Jesus as the year zero except that Jesus lived such a beautiful life that millions of people consider him the Christ.

However, there are also more formal arguments for the existence of aesthetic quality. Let us examine the axioms of Euclidean geometry. The fifth axiom is generally known as the parallel postulate. There are many known variants of the fifth axiom, but Euclid’s original ones are as follows.

  1. We may draw a straight line between any two points.
  2. We may extend a finite straight line continuously in a straight line.
  3. We may define a circle with any center and radius.
  4. All right angles are equal.
  5. If a straight line falling on two straight lines make the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if produced indefinitely, meet on that side on which are the angles less than the two right angles.

Euclid proves various geometric propositions in his work Elements but the first 28 of them can be proved without the fifth axiom. This could imply Euclid was dissatisfied with the fifth axiom and reluctant to use it. In any case the fifth axiom was deemed somehow undesirable by ancient mathematicians. The millennia after Euclid are abundant with failed attempts to prove the fifth axiom to be a logical consequence of the previous four axioms. Only in 1868 did Eugenio Beltrami demonstrate this to be impossible. Had any of these attempts been successful it would have removed the requirement to state the fifth axiom in conjunction with the previous four.

Why did people want to get rid of the parallel postulate? It has never been proven that the parallel postulate must be removed due to its ugliness exceeding a certain threshold of what we should tolerate.

Because the parallel postulate could apparently not be removed, yet people wanted to get rid of it, they tried to rephrase it. The aim was to create a system identical to Euclidian geometry but with a neater variant of the fifth axiom. One popular variant of the parallel postulate, called Playfair’s axiom, states: “Given a line and a point not on it, at most one parallel to the given line can be drawn through the point.” In the nineteenth century even this variant of the parallel postulate finally lost its status as an essentialist normative truth, which led to the acceptance of alternate forms of geometry. At this point the parallel postulate ceases to appear as an essentialist belief and begins to resemble a point of making a choice. People realized they can end up with a consistent system of geometry by denying that there are any parallel lines at all. This results in elliptical geometry. It’s also possible to state there to be an infinite number of lines that can be drawn through a point not on another line and that are parallels of that line. This results in hyperbolic geometry.

While these innovative new axiomatizations of geometry would arguably be a good reason to examine alternatives for the parallel postulate, medieval mathematicians did not think so. Even though the idea of elliptic or hyperbolic geometry occurred to some of them they tended to reject them but retain the desire to get rid of the parallel postulate. Were the ancient mathematicians seeking to eliminate the parallel postulate pursuing a mere whim? Was it a meaningless random occurrence that they all thought the parallel postulate to be the least desirable of the axioms? It seems more likely that there is such a thing as aesthetic quality and the axiomatization of geometry lacked it when it was required to include the parallel postulate.

Aesthetic quality is not equivalent to Quality or Dynamic Quality. Those two are essentially undefinable concepts. I’m not saying aesthetic quality would be definable in the sense that all possible aesthetic patterns could be listed by employing a dialectic method, but same goes for all other levels. Simply defining the intellectual level does not entail that all possible intellectual patterns are individually known. If it did, our ability to conceptualize the notion of intellectual quality would entail that we had already discovered every intellectual pattern there is to be found. That would mean we would have already made every possible achievement in empirical science. Likewise, simply defining the revelationary level does not mean we are already acquainted with all possible perceptions. Empirical science has demonstrated that birds can see ultraviolet light as just another primary color among red, yellow and blue, but no human has subjective experience of that. Therefore, when we speak of symmetry, regularity and the Golden Ratio as known aesthetic patterns, it does not mean we regard our current conception of aesthetics as final. We can find new aesthetic patterns at any moment. These patterns are Dynamic Quality upon the moment of being found but they transform into static quality as we get used to them.

See also